Unity rules change suddenly leaves many games in trouble

A change to Unity's terms of service (Tos) has left a cloud-based multiplayer service provider in trouble today. Improbable has announced that all Unity-built games using its SpatialOS multiplayer service are now in violation of Unity's updated ToS. This applies to live games as well, which has the potential to be particularly problematic.

Though Unity's terms of service were updated at the beginning of last month, Improbable wrote today that Unity only recently confirmed the implications of those changes to it. "Unity has clarified to us that this change effectively makes it a breach of terms to operate or create SpatialOS games using Unity, including in development and production games," Improbable said today.

Not only that, but Improbable also says that Unity has revoked its own license for this ToS breach, which makes it difficult for the company to support Unity games using SpatialOS. SpatialOS is a cloud-based multiplayer service that's used by a variety of MMO titles; Unity's new terms forbid managed services from installing or executing the Unity Runtime on the cloud or through a remote server, and that's essentially what these SpatialOS games do.

In a rather lengthy blog post today, Improbable expresses the severity of Unity's move to ban cloud-based services: "Overnight, this is an action by Unity that has immediately done harm to projects across the industry, including those of extremely vulnerable or small scale developers and damaged major projects in development over many years. Games that have been funded based on the promise of SpatialOS to deliver next-generation multiplayer are now endangered due to their choice of game engine. Live games are now in legal limbo."

From here, Improbable says that it will continue trying to solve this problem with Unity, with the ultimate goal being a reversal of this particular ToS change. It also says it will continue to support developers who are creating games with Unity and using SpatialOS for multiplayer, but until Unity changes something, it's hard to see what all Improbable can do.

One thing that will probably come in handy is an emergency fund Improbable is setting up for developers who are facing financial difficulty as a result of these new rules. It'll also help developers change engines, which is a monumental task for pretty much any game. With that being the case, Improbable says that its resources for helping migrate to another engine might be limited.

So, it seems that Improbable is now in a stand off with Unity until this whole debacle gets sorted out. The worry, of course, is that Unity doesn't change its decision or give SpatialOS permission to use the Unity Runtime in the cloud, which would leave live games in particular between a rock and a hard place. We'll see what happens from here, so stay tuned.